Blessing Adeoye’s Top Ten Games of 2019
During my “top ten” piece last year, I opened up by talking a bit about what I was going through in 2018. I wasn’t having a great time, honestly. Don’t get me wrong – winning prom king, appearing on a PAX panel with Spawn On Me, and launching the OK Beast Patreon were awesome moments for me and the website. Though, a mix of different stresses had gotten to me. Personal, family, and life issues contributed toward mental health obstacles that culminated in kind of a bummer year for me in a lot of ways. So, at the beginning of this year I made a resolution that I was going to actively make day to day decisions that would result in me being happier in 2019. So as an update to my piece last year: I’m good.
I’ve adjusted to certain life changes, I’ve found ways to believe in myself more, I got a Spotify account (which, let me tell you, it really helped), I muted accounts on social media that were feeding negativity into my life, and most of all, I’ve looked to the people that have given me support and positivity. Those people are a lot of you reading. So thank you. If you’re part of the OK Beast family, I truly appreciate you. Thank you for being there for me… Now, let’s talk about what happened this year.
It’s been a wild year for me. Shout out to Kinda Funny for having me on their shows. Shout out to the around 200 people that attended the OK Beast PAX West panel. Shout out to everyone who was a part of Indiepiece (Michael Higham I see you). Shout out to Chloe and Belinda for being homies this year and appearing on multiple Stir Fry episodes. Shout out to John Bernardo and Andrew Taylor for being a part of Jump Master. Shout out to Alex O’Neill for being on season 2 of Leaderboard. And of course, shout out to Alex Van Aken, Ian Preschel, Brandon Wilson, and Moises Taveras for making OK Beast what it is this year. I know at many points, the commitments we’ve made to this site have been stressful, and I can’t thank you enough for being on this journey with me. This started with all of us having the dream of being a part of the gaming industry, doing what we’re passionate about – and we did it. It’s been an incredible year and I couldn’t have asked for things to be any better, truly. The wild part about it is that 2020 is going to be even crazier. Alright, let’s talk about video games.
2019 was a good year for games – a weird year, but a good one. There was something for everyone. Whether you’re into Nintendo, battle royale, deep RPGs, character action games, first person shooters, loot shooters, Kojima, fighting games, Star Wars, indies, the list goes on… This year was jam packed. There wasn’t a God of War or Breath of The Wild, sure. But in a year where we didn’t get those, we got maybe 5 different Nier: Automatas, which I’m more than okay with. So without further ado, here is my personal list of the top games of the year.
Yooka-Laylee & The Impossible Lair
Yooka-Laylee and The Impossible Lair was way more fun of a 2D platforming experience than I had expected. For a game that is the indirect follow-up to the 3D platforming revival that ultimately under delivered, I figured Impossible Lair would be a quick cash-in on a franchise that had only a few drops of juice left in it. I was wrong. Impossible Lair’s core features make the game engaging as a 2D platformer in inventive ways. Using the overworld to transform levels and the build up toward beating that final level kept me interested throughout my experience.
Devil May Cry 5
Man, this game rocks. It’s one of the most technically impressive, mechanically solid, and fine-tuned games I have played all year. It’s hardcore, rock-and-roll style mixed with unpredictable weapons and cool characters make Devil May Cry 5 a game worth playing. It’s amazing. All that said, it didn’t “connect” with me enough to warrant a spot on my personal list, but I think it’s a quality enough game to be called out as one of the best of the year.
Dreams Creator Early Access
Dreams is weird, man. I’m not even sure if I can call this game a game. There’s a likelihood that I’ll probably have it as an honorable mention again next year. All I know is that I played the Impossible Quiz in Dreams and that makes it “dope af”.
I have gone on rants on the podcast about my issues with Pokemon Sword. It’s a game that feels caught between trying to please a very casual, young audience while at the same time curate an experience for the hardest of the hardcore, leaving folks like me out in the process. Despite my critiques though, I really enjoyed my time with it. I fell in love with my Pangoro and my Boltund while Wobbuffet and Rillaboom (named Diddy) put in the work to carry us to the championship. It’s a Pokemon game that once again brought out the feelings of nostalgia that always hit hard for me and while I wish this old dog would learn new tricks, I’ve got to admit that those old tricks do slap.
10. The Outer Worlds
Like Pokemon (and many games this year), I complained a lot about this one on the podcast. At the end of the day though, this game hit the spot. It’s comfort food. It’s the Fallout that I know and love but condensed and packaged for an “in and out” experience. I have a lot of critiques of The Outer Worlds. I wish the game spent more time building and fleshing out its main narrative. I wish load screens weren’t so frequent and long. I wish the combat felt less janky and the combat systems felt more fleshed out. I wish some of the characters behaved as if they had a clue. The reason I have this laundry list of complaints though is because despite me being “underwhelmed”, I still enjoyed this game so much. The characters have heart, the world that they’ve built is interesting, and it’s more Fallout. I always love more Fallout.
9. Blood & Truth
Blood & Truth is a PlayStation VR game from London Studio that puts you into the shoes of a returning army man who is thrown into the middle of a dispute between rival gang families. It’s an on-rails shooter that takes what games like House of The Dead and Time Crisis made popular and upped the ante by giving you two move controllers (preferably) plus VR goggles and engrossing you in an action thriller complete with stunts, explosions, and slow motion.
Virtual Reality is at its best when it makes you feel cool doing whatever it is you’re doing. Blood & Truth NAILS that feeling. Dodging bullets, reloading your weapon, switching between guns, and many of the actions in the game feel tactile and satisfying to pull off. This is coupled with a sense of tension as the difficulty ramps up while shootouts feel intense and your moment to moment decisions feel meaningful. The best part is that you feel like you’re there in the action. Jumping out of buildings, aiming snipers by holding the controller to your face, throwing grenades, and other subtle bits of action that you would expect in a shooter somehow “hit different”. Blood & Truth’s campaign was a roller coaster of emotion and adrenaline that I’ll always look back on as one of the early standouts of PlayStation VR.
8. Death Stranding
I’ve said it countless times on Twitter and I’ll say it loudly here for those in the back: There is no way that Death Stranding can be bad.
Jokes aside, approaching the release of Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, I didn’t know what to make of the game. Reviews and impressions described it as a “Fed Ex Simulator”, Dan Ryckert on the Giant Beastcast said it’s the worst AAA game he’s ever played, and IGN gave it an “Okay” score. So the Kojima fan in me wondered if I was truly going to adore Death Stranding the same way that I adored the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I’m thankful to say that I really like Death Stranding. I like the world, the visual style, the characters, the ambitions it sets forth to achieve, and the ways it attempts to tackle its themes of connection and rebuilding in inventive albeit ridiculous ways.
Mechanically, Death Stranding is a game unlike any I have played. It challenged me to find enjoyment out of features and systems that I would usually despise. Encumbrance, balancing, arranging cargo, managing meters, walking, and other monotonous mechanics are the central backbone of what keeps Death Stranding going, and it somehow works. Death Stranding is a game that works because of how much it feels like actual work, which plays into the themes of making this destroyed world a better, more connected place. You’re doing the world a favor and the game constantly feeds you with positive feedback and appreciation for the work you’re doing. I’m far from the end, but my time with the game so far has been spent helping characters, rebuilding roads, “liking” structures built by other players, and working with other people to create a better UCA. Although this is not the Metal Gear Solid follow-up that I wanted from Hideo Kojima, it is still an eye-opening experience that I’m very glad I’ve spent time with this fall.
7. Ape Out
Ape Out is an experience. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a top down Hotline Miami-like, musical action game where you play as an ape trying to escape captivity. The game is brief, blood-pumping, visually striking, and an overall joy to play. Whether it’s the soundtrack that reacts to each action you make while playing the game or the text that pops up on screen with the name of each level, every feature in Ape Out feels geared toward either enhancing its audiovisual presentation or creating an excellent gameplay experience. The procedurally generated levels kept me on my toes while the “Dead” screen that displays the path I took during my run kept me engaged enough to feel determined during my follow-up run. Ape Out is an excellent indie game that I would suggest anyone play.
6. Astral Chain
Astral Chain feels like a game made for me. A Platinum-developed, action game with a cool, creative combat system where the characters look like they’re from Jet Force Gemini? Sign me up.
On the real, Astral Chain is incredible because it is uncompromising in its vision. Simply put, it is a game about being a police officer. You arrest people, pick up trash off the street, help guide traffic, solve crimes, and every now and then you’ll use your enslaved “Legion” to defend the earth from the threat of “Chimeras” making their way into our dimension from the astral plane. The anime fantasy of this world is heightened by how grounded it is and much like how I commend Death Stranding for being a game about doing a job, I love Astral Chain for the same reason.
Beyond the duties, Astral Chain is also excellent for its style. The soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. Task Force Neuron is an undefeated jam of this year and the rest of the music in the game keeps with that same level of greatness. The art style caught my eye and looks even better in motion. The way my character moves when going from standing to running feels natural and grounded in a way that stands out for such a colorful, stylized game. Everything about the presentation caught my eyes and ears in Astral Chain.
5. Katana Zero
Katana Zero feels like another game that was made specifically for me. It’s a 2D side scroller that takes inspiration from Hotline Miami in order to create a neon-colored, fast-paced, action experience that’s about figuring out how to clear screens of enemies without taking a single hit. You play as Zero, a futuristic samurai with the power to slow down time. The gameplay feels free and fine tuned as your time bending abilities enhance your capabilities of deflecting bullets, dodge rolling, and more. The game feels great to play and satisfying since visually Katana Zero’s beautiful pixel art portrays blood spew and gore just as well as it shows off moments of beauty in its neon city. The art caught my eye and I was engrossed in Katana Zero from screen to screen.
Narratively, Katana Zero is complex and engaging. The game tells a violent story of a samurai with a drug addiction who is attempting to figure out his mysterious past while dealing with his brutal present. It can approach Metal Gear levels of convoluted at times but over-the-top characters and surprising moments kept me fascinated throughout my experience.
4. Resident Evil 2
I’ve never been the Resident Evil guy. At times, I’ve actually questioned the world’s fervor for Resident Evil 4 and ultimately chalked up my lack of enthusiasm for the series as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This year’s remake of Resident Evil 2 has proven that theory correct. I was blown away during my time with this game. Technically, the game shines from the ways in which enemies are meticulously placed in the game world providing jumps scares to the ways in which the zombies fall apart as you’re trying to take them down. Mr. X’s ever-lingering presence filled me with dread during the bulk of my playthrough and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Resident Evil 2 is game design at its finest. It provides the slow, unraveling satisfaction of solving a Zelda dungeon while being one of the best looking, best running games this year.
Control’s ambition is a big reason as to why it’s so high on my list. This is another game that I had a lot to complain about on the podcast. Summed up, aside from the technical issues, I think Control suffers a tad from how the gameplay and the narrative-style clash with each other. It’s a game about the Federal Bureau of Control. It’s a game about the facility. It’s a game about learning what went on in this environment and uncovering the story of this world through discovering logs, letters, and office materials. Walking into the Bureau and seeing lifeless bodies floating in midair while uttering nonsense sets the tone of this world and only scratches the surface of what there is to discover in order to understand and learn about the FBC. This exploration of the Bureau leads to some really cool and mind blowing discoveries that I think proves Control’s excellence as a narrative experience. Then, there’s the other side of Control.
Control as an action game is really fun. Using your powers to levitate and launch objects is satisfying. It’s even more satisfying when juggling your powers with the service weapon and having to manage your cool-downs in order to maintain power over your enemies. Yes, Jesse Faden is paper thin as far as her health bar is concerned, but that sense of urgency keeps things interesting.
My problem here is that when put together, Control feels like a tale of two games. It’s a really interesting and compelling sci-fi exploration of a government facility tasked with the other-worldly that highlights the mundane aspects of office culture in really fun and abstract ways. Control is also a fast paced action game where you play as a superhero with a gun. Although those two things are awesome (so awesome that this game is number 3 on my list), its instances where I am stopping moments of intense action to read a page long memo about a flying toaster where both of those experiences fall apart. There are a LOT of memos and collectables. And they got in the way of my action experience. There are also a lot of cool story bits and things to learn, but the hardcore action clashed with this sense of mystery and discovery. This, along with the technical issues that I suffered, are probably what keeps this game from being number one on my list. But still, what a game. Bravo.
2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
I’ve never fallen in love with Star Wars as a movie franchise. I’ve always thought that the movies were pretty cool, but they never blew me away. Star Wars games are a different story. There is something about actually being able to navigate that world that hits… different. That’s why I loved Star Wars Demolition as a kid. It’s why Star Wars Battlefront 2 on the PlayStation 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s also why Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of my favorite games from this year. In many ways, this is the Star Wars game I always wanted. Getting to wield a lightsaber and slash through dangerous creatures, force push stormtroopers, and engage in one on one battles with powerful warriors has always been appealing to me, and Respawn nailed it with this game. The action, along with an impressively well told story provided the materials for a Star Wars adventure that invested me more than I’ve ever been previously in the franchise.
Cal Kestis isn’t the most compelling of characters personality-wise, but his backstory brought me in. The ways in which that story unfolds along with the characters around him such as Cere and others, really helped me understand the reasons the Star Wars universe can be cool. This isolated story of a guy on the run during this pivotal moment in Star Wars history is some of the most I’ve felt connected to what’s going on in Star Wars and that’s one of the biggest compliments I can give this game. That, and the fact that concepts like purge troopers, lightsabers, and other lore bits struck me as fascinating for the first time.
While the premise of the game engaged me, it was the plotting combat, a variety of characters, the beautiful planets, and the layered story that moved me. The full breadth of the creative choices in this game feel inspired. Of course, there was maybe a layer or two of polish missing that could’ve bumped this game up to number one for me but despite that, this game was an incredible journey from beginning to end.
1. Apex Legends
Y’all already know.
When Apex Legends dropped out of nowhere in February, I was shocked by how good it was. I had spent parts of 2018 addicted to Fortnite and I had thought I had gotten all of what the Battle Royale genre had to offer. But man, I was wrong.
Apex Legends isn’t only a huge step forward for battle royale games, it’s a step forward for first person shooters as well. Respawn took the movement mechanics that worked so well in the Titanfall games and implemented them along with the new “Ping System” to create something special. So special, that I’ve already begun judging other games based on my experience with Apex. While playing Borderlands 3 I couldn’t help but to desire a contextual pinging system with the breadth and depth of Apex’s. Regular waypoints weren’t cutting it. Likewise, while playing Outer Worlds, I couldn’t help but to actively notice the lack of mantiling and sliding in the game. This same sense of lacking features permeated into other first person games I played this year such as Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Overwatch, and others. Apex Legends got it so right, that a lot of other games just felt wrong.
Beyond the features I mentioned, Apex Legends brought so much more to the table from big innovations for the genre to small, but meaningful quality of life improvements. Varying characters with different abilities and personalities allowed for different styles of play in a way that felt bigger and better than battle royale games before it. Reviving teammates by grabbing their banner and running it to the beacon provided more incentive to stay invested in the match. Kicking in doors provided strategy to how you approach dangerous situations. Auto-equipping new, stronger attachments sped up the pace of play on consoles. The jumpmaster system provided ways for teams to stick together. I can go on for days.
Apex Legends was the most I’ve seen a genre leap forward this year. I found myself hooked on the experience for months on end and I wouldn’t trade my experience with this game for the world. Apex Legends is my personal Game of The Year.